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Assessing God's will through prayer:

An Introduction.

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The first hurdle: Decide whether God exists:

  • If no God exists then the answer to whether we can assess God's will is automatically no.

  • If a deity or deities do exist, than assessing her/his/their will may be possible.

There are three basic beliefs that people have concerning the existence of a deity:

  • Atheists typically have no belief in the existence of a god, a goddess, or pantheon of deities. Thus, they doubt that it is possible to use prayer to assess her/his/their will. Most would probably believe that sending an email to the Tooth Fairy would be just as useful.

  • Agnostics typically believe that there is no firm evidence, either for God's existence or for God's non-existence. Thus, they generally feel ethically bound to remain uncommitted for now. They would not expect to be able to assess the will of God. If it were possible then God's or Gods' existence would automatically be proven.

  • Theists, Duotheists, Trinitarians, and Polytheists are, by definition, convinced that at least one God and/or Goddess exists. Since they typically believe that such deity or deities:
    • has infinite powers,

    • is immanent, -- pervading and sustaining the universe, --- and

    • is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, --- and

    • interested in the activities of humans,

then humans might be able to assess Co's 1 will.

This web site's official policy is to remain neutral on the subject of God's existence. However, for this section, the author will suspend his personal Agnostic beliefs and assume that one or more deities do exist. Then he can explore whether it is possible for a person to communicate with a God or Gods in order to assess their will.

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Conflicting quotations about assessing God's will -- pro and con:

The Bible contains many dozens of passages about prayer. However, only a few refer to assessing the will of god:

  • Proverbs 3:5 & 6: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

  • Psalm 17:6: "I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.

  • Romans 12:2: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will."

A quote about assessing God's will:

  • Ivanla Vanzant is an inspirational speaker, lawyer, author, television personality, etc. She said:

    "In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was prayer. Sometimes my prayer was, 'Help me.' Sometimes a prayer was 'Thank You.' What I've discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my Creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away." 2

A skeptical quote about whether prayer assesses God's will from Plain Truth Ministries:

  • Monte Wolverton said:

    "Methods some Christians use to determine God's will are highly subjective -- arising from the individual's own perception and experience. Such messages are subject to personal interpretation. ....And ironically, in many cases, these perceived messages from God seem to affirm what the individual wanted to do in the first place." 3

Quotes suggesting that assessing God's will through prayer is (or at least, may be) illusionary:

  • Bob Seidensticker wrote on his blog at Patheos:

    "Imagine a world without God, where prayers are unanswered, where prayer is just you talking to yourself, where you only imagined that a loving deity supported you in adversity, where bad things happen to good people for no reason, where only wishful thinking supports the ideas of Heaven and Hell. Open your eyes, because that’s the world you’re living in." 4

  • Susan B. Anthony (1820 - 1906): An American social reformer and women's rights activist said:

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About praying:

Prayer is a very popular activity. Polls have indicated that about 80% of U.S. adults say that they have prayed to God in the previous week. However, this may not be a reliable statistic. A similar polling question -- whether the individual attends religious service regularly -- found that on the order of 40% "say" that they do. However, by counting noses, investigators in a few counties have found that only 20% actually do. What is happening is that people who are sampled by opinion polls are often reluctant to tell the truth on socially important questions. They seem to want to be highly thought of by the pollster.

There are many reasons why people pray. Two of the most important are:

bullet To seek guidance from God on a specific topic or problem in their life. For example: should they propose to their significant other; what university should they go to; should they accept a recent job offer; is this the right time to buy a new car?

bullet To assess the will of God on a theological matter: For example:

bullet Which denomination is the true church;

bullet What is the best ethical choice about the regulation of stem cell research;

bullet Can an abortion be the least worse option in a particular circumstance, or are all abortions unacceptable?

The effectiveness of prayer is rarely scrutinized.

We decided to examine the belief that people can assess the will of God through prayer. We conducting a pilot study to test it in practice, and concluded that it doesn't seem to work.

It is our hope that some other group will pick up this topic and develop it further, with a larger number of subjects, better controls, etc.

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. We are using "co" here as a gender-neutral personal pronoun to supplement pronouns like "she" and "he." "Co" allows us to refer to God without defining co's gender.
  2. "Many Ways of Praise," Facebook, 2016-NOV-07, at: https://www.facebook.com/
  3. Monte Wolverton, "In Search of God's Will," Plain Truth Ministries, 2004-SEP/OCT, at: http://www.ptm.org/
  4. Bob Seidensticker, "Final Thoughts on the Atheist Prayer Experiment," Patheos, 2012-NOV-24, at: http://www.patheos.com/ In this blog, he described an experiment where 70 Atheists prayed several minutes each day for 40 days, each seeking some sense that God was present.

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Home > Science vs. religion > God's will > here

 Home page > Christianity > Christian history, etcPrayer > God's will > here

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Copyright 2001 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JAN-12
Latest update: 2017-NOV-29.
Author: B.A. Robinson

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